In a churchyard overlooking Lake Ontario, local laymen served barbecued steak to hungry delegates to the biennial national convention of Canada’s largest Protestant denomination. It was about the only time during the twenty-third General Council of the United Church of Canada that anyone bit into tough fare. Back on the convention floor, there were plenty of meaty issues, but the delegates—half clergy, half lay—passed most of them on to the professionals at United Church headquarters in Toronto.
Included in the 408-page agenda for the nine-day meeting was consideration of a new creed and of whether to appoint “bishops.” What bugged delegates the most, however, was a problem the United Church shares with a number of North American denominations, which have not yet faced up to it. It is diplomatically described as “the crisis in the ministry,” and it ranges in severity from the indignation felt by a rural pastor who must crank the mimeo and mow the lawn to the loneliness and frustration of suburban ministers unable to cope with the deep-seated problems of affluent parishioners. Alarms have been sounded over the number of men leaving the ministry for such reasons.
“The crisis of the Church today is the crisis of the ministry,” said the Rev. A. L. Griffith of Toronto in a floor debate.
A wide range of therapy has been suggested. Manitoba churchmen petitioned “that the current Manse Furnishing Policy be changed so that the minister shall provide all of the Living Room Furniture and all of the Bedroom Furniture,” and “that the Pastoral Charge provide a TV antenna for the manse if one is needed for that particular area.” At a deeper level, a Commission of the Church’s Ministry in the Twentieth Century, formed four years ago to study the problem, came through this year with twenty-nine pages of findings and recommendations. Only two proposals were adopted. The rest were held over for consideration by an executive committee and a future General Council.
One effect of the portion adopted will be to broaden the concept of the ministry and pastoral charges. Certified “lay supply” will have the right to perform sacraments. On the educational level, the United Church will reduce the number of its theological colleges from eight to five. Each remaining school is admonished to “move as quickly as possible into an ecumenical approach to theological education.”
The commission had also recommended new recruitment procedures and a revised method of bringing church and pastor together (present call procedures were said to be leading to “wasteful mismanagement of ministerial potential that is both frustrating and unjust”). United Church polity currently follows rather closely that of Presbyterians in the United States. Authority to call ministers rests with local congregations, but their choices must be ratified at a higher level.Climaxing the latest dispute in the procedure, the council ordered the Rev. J. Berkley Reynolds inducted as minister of the 900-member West Ellesmere United Church, Toronto. The local presbytery had sought to bar the transfer of Reynolds, an outspoken evangelical, from Newfoundland.
The United Church of Canada was formed in 1925 out of a union of Methodist, Congregational, and Presbyterian churches, and is now engaged in merger talks with the Anglican Church of Canada. Thus the denomination is something of a prototype of the super-denomination envisioned for the United States by the Consultation on Church Union. United Church membership hit a high of 1,064,033 in 1965 and has been declining since. The latest tally, for 1967, showed 1,060,335. In the late fifties and early sixties, more than 40,000 new members were being received each year on profession of faith. Last year, despite a climbing Canadian population, only 26,000 new members were taken in.
As a possible prelude to merger with the Anglicans, the United Church has been toying with the idea of appointing “bishops.” The official proposal left the impression that the appointees to the new office would be something less than bishops in the Anglican sense. Even at that, council delegates rebelled and politely shelved the issue by referring it for study to the joint Anglican-United Church commission that is engineering the amalgamation of the two churches.
A proposed new creed devised by the Committee on Christian Faith for “experimental use” provoked sharp criticism on the convention floor. Principal George Johnston of United Theological College, Montreal, said it was “basically a non-Christian creed.” Other delegates lamented the omission of key doctrines in the ninety-word statement. The committee was directed to revise the creed and to clear it with a group of church executives who run the United Church between meetings of the General Council. The statement is eventually to appear in a service book along with the longer creed of the United Church of Christ in the United States and the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds.
The brief, new creed in its unrevised form went like this:
Man is not alone; he lives in God’s world.
We believe in God:
who created and is creating,
who has come in the true Man,
Jesus, to reconcile and renew,
who works within us
and among us by his Spirit.
We trust him.
He calls us to be his Church:
to celebrate his presence,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil.
We proclaim his Kingdom.
In life, in death, in life
beyond death, he is with us.
We are not alone; we believe in God.
The council, meeting in the small Ontario city of Kingston, where the St. Lawrence begins its long trek northeastward to the sea, bestowed its ultimate award upon one of the church’s veteran medical missionaries. Elected to a two-year term as moderator was Dr. Robert Baird McClure, 68, who served in China and India as well as in the Near East. McClure did not distinguish himself as a parliamentarian in initial appearances before the council, but he kept secular newsmen happy with a succession of blunt quotes. He described himself as a “terrific liberal” in theology and indicated he believed neither in the historicity of Christ’s resurrection nor in hell. McClure defeated Norman Bruce McLeod, a colorful young minister from Hamilton who some thought might emerge as the Pierre Elliott Trudeau of the United Church.
In another important election, delegates chose the Rev. Charles H. Forsyth as secretary of the key Board of Evangelism and Social Service. Forsyth, 42, has been serving as an aide to the premier of New Brunswick province.
UNREST AMONG NATIONAL BAPTISTS
In this era of unrest the National Baptist Convention Incorporated was thoroughly at home during this month’s meeting in Atlanta. The 15,000 delegates heard a minority group charge that the world’s biggest Negro organization was not as involved in social action as it ought to be, elected a regional vice-president who was not the favorite of some board members, and listened as their veteran president declared that the civil-rights fight as originally planned has been lost.
The denomination quietly took action purchasing Natchez (Mississippi) College, passed enabling legislation for the convention to sponsor a $9 million housing development for low- and middle-income groups, and found a middle ground between strong pressures to endorse a candidate for U. S. president and to remain aloof from all political emphasis.
Prior to the convention’s opening, a group called Concerned Clergy presented the board a list of proposed resolutions, urging that the convention “help our own hungry people in Mississippi, support the Poor People’s Movement and Operation Breadbasket, and give aid to the starving children in Biafra.” The board refused to accept the list on a variety of grounds ranging from infringement on Baptist autonomy to the fact that many officials felt they were already meaningfully engaged in social action.
In some confusion, the dissidents insisted on open discussion of the issues after the annual address by President loseph H. Jackson. But after Jackson’s re-election by acclamation, the western regional vice-president, who was presiding, ruled the session adjourned. Two days later, at the time assigned for such issues, none of the dissidents took the opportunity.
Most exciting was election of a new northeast regional vice-president. The chief candidates were the Rev. Julian Taylor of New Haven, Connecticut, and the Rev. Sandy Ray of Brooklyn, New York. Both have long been active in NBC affairs but Ray was the better known among delegates because of his wide-ranging preaching missions and his ministry at the Cornerstone Baptist Church. After two hours of speeches and meticulous vote-counting, Taylor moved to make the election unanimous for Ray.
On civil rights, Jackson declared that the struggle as originally planned had been lost. In this he did not fault President Johnson, whom he praised warmly, but he decried those who have lost faith in the nation. He also criticized people who “now believe that civil disobedience is a more powerful and dependable weapon for achieving civil rights than are the just laws and courts of the land.”
He did suggest, however, that the convention appoint a committee to set up guidelines to help members in their local areas participate in politics and make sound judgments. This group may endorse a national ticket next month.
As has been NBC custom, Jackson called on local officials to appear at the convention with words of welcome. Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen came, with warm words, but Governor Lester Maddox didn’t. After a busy week the convention adjourned to meet next year in Kansas City, Missouri.
LAWRENCE T. SLAGHT
BLACK SEPARATISM—FOR NOW
Black separatism won qualified support this month from a leader of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, further sharpening the convention’s social-action image among black Baptist groups.
The Rev. Gardner Taylor of Brooklyn declared at the annual PNBC meeting that Jesus, who called his disciples apart, “must have seen that every group must at some time or other get with itself, find itself. I have come to see that a church needs to separate from the world every so often.… The same applies to a race such as ours.”
Taylor, outgoing PNBC president, said Jesus separated the disciples to cleanse, restore, and empower them for their return into the world. So black Christians “must return to the nation bearing in Christ’s name the gifts of our blackness.” He urged the PNBC “not to abandon the dream of an integrated society … but to catch the words of truth being uttered in the excessive rhetoric of violence of so many of our best young minds.”
Taylor’s words evoked strong praise from youth representatives within the PNBC, which claims more success in keeping touch with young militants than other black church groups.
The convention, which left the National Baptist Convention Inc. (story above) in 1961, endorsed “law and order” when it stands for “social justice,” and rejected it when used as a “cloak” for racism or “violence of the far white right.”
A resolution at the Washington, D. C., meeting asking churches to give money to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference reflected uncertainty about the direction of that organization since the death of founder Martin Luther King, Jr., who was a PNBC member. The Baptists said it would be “traumatic” if the SCLC “became weak or defunct because of inadequate support … We must not let King’s dream of yesterday become a nightmare of tomorrow.”
The convention also called for a U. S. president who would heed black Americans’ cries for social justice but refused to endorse Humphrey or Nixon; urged an immediate halt to bombing of North Viet Nam; and asked its members to join the SCLC’s boycott against A&P food stores.
Executive Secretary L. Venchael Booth said PNBC congregations total 800, up 100 in one year, with membership at about half a million. The national budget is $ 180,000. New president is the Rev. Emery Searcy, 56, a soft-spoken Atlantan.
BARBARA H. KUEHN
THEN THERE WERE 700,000
What with a 15 per cent increase in members at home and a merger with the 100,000-member Bethel Full Gospel Church in Indonesia, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) landed in Dallas for last month’s assembly with a world constituency of 700,000.
In view of such progress, the 18,000 Pentecostal delegates were extremely cautious on key agenda items. A proposal to cut levies on local churches by nearly half met heated opposition. Re-elected General Overseer Charles Conn warned it could “severely alter” the program, and executives proposed reductions staggered over twenty years. The issue went to another committee for more study until the 1970 assembly. At present, congregations send 25 per cent of their tithe receipts to headquarters each month.
Also postponed were controversial bans on facial makeup, theater attendance, and dancing—at present banned only in unwritten policy. Prohibition of mixed swimming and bobbed hair for women in the official “Church of God Teachings” as well as the denomination’s Minutes was also delayed two years.
The assembly clarified the membership restriction on divorced and remarried persons. A committee recommended no discrimination against “divorcees and/or those who have been involved in multiple marriages.” Previously, only “innocent parties” in cases of divorce for adultery could join local churches. Divorced and remarried persons will continue to be excluded from the ministry.
Conn spoke about the need for a seminary, and delegates later set up a board to coordinate and advise Lee College and the church’s three Bible colleges. Accredited liberal-arts programs for the latter may be recommended. The assembly also approved a $170,000 addition to a $2 million headquarters building which had been dedicated earlier this year.
JAMES S. TINNEY
A ‘PLAN’ FOR ASSEMBLIES
The Assemblies of God launched a “Five Year Plan of Advance” at an unusual four-day national evangelism council in St. Louis. Enthusiasm of the council’s 6,000 participants for the plan—scheduled to begin in January—shifts the denomination “from a defensive holding action to a dynamic offensive outreach,” said Thomas F. Zimmerman, general superintendent of the nation’s largest Pentecostal group.
Publicist Warren McPherson said the first year’s focus will be on self-study and revival in member churches, though the overall plan is three-pronged—a ministry “unto the Lord, unto believers, and unto the lost.” He said plans for the next four years will be firmed up at the denomination’s business meeting in Dallas next August.
‘39 ARTICLES’ ON THE WAY OUT?
The venerable Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England may be on the way out as the theological norm of Anglicanism. In one of the last actions at last month’s Lambeth Conference of the world’s 490 Anglican bishops, a resolution said ordination assent to the Articles should be required “only in the context of a statement which gives the full range of our inheritance of faith and sets the Articles in their historical context.”
By a large majority, the London conference asked each member church to “consider whether the Articles need be bound up with its Prayer Book.”
The resolution stemmed directly from the report on the Thirty-Nine Articles by a special English study commission headed by Bishop Ian Ramsey. It favored retention of the Articles with a shorter form of assent and an explanatory preface, and an end to any public reading of the Articles. Archbishop of Canterbury A. Michael Ramsey said he was glad the bishops had endorsed the earlier study and. in fact, had taken “a rather more radical line than the report did.” …
Carl Henry In Cambridge
The train trundled from London to the ancient English university town of Cambridge. On board were seven suitcases, miscellaneous parcels, and one of the world’s foremost evangelical thinkers. In Cambridge he settled in a modest flat, opened a bank account, and registered with police as an alien. And on September 5 at age 55, the Rev. Dr. Carl F. H. Henry began a new era in his life.
After a dozen years as the founding editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, Henry is returning—not without mixed feelings—to the academic life. But instead of again becoming a seminary teacher, a role he filled for fifteen years, he returns as a free-lance theologian. He has had several invitations to return to the campus, but for at least the next year he plans to write. On the eve of his departure he told the Washington Star that since John Robinson developed his honest-to-God views and James A. Pike got “plugged into spiritism” in the placid town of Cambridge, it just might also be a good place for some evangelical thinking. One possible project: a text on the doctrine of God with broad reader appeal.
Henry’s brilliance of intellect makes him a standout in the evangelical movement, despite his attempts to raise standards of scholarship in this amorphous yet remarkable force in Protestantism. His fervent loyalty to the evangelical cause has not precluded sharp candor in tongue and pen, dating at least from his 1948 book The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, which was a major factor in the renaissance of evangelical social conscience.
Henry’s brilliance and fearlessness were key factors in CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S unusual rise, in a matter of years, to prominence among the hundreds of religious magazines. Besides an intellect nourished by two doctorates, Henry brought to his task an unusual sensitivity to the need for fresh, current comment and to the importance of a comprehensive news section in informing a journal’s readers. This sensitivity traces back to the days before he became a Christian and went to college, when Henry was a 20-year-old weekly newspaper editor on Long Island and a stringer for the downtown dailies.
Some of Henry’s ambiguity about “going into journalistic exile,” as he put it in an editor’s note, may stem from a career-long ambivalence. On the one hand he deplores the paucity of first-rate evangelical theological scholarship. On the other, he senses the critical need for spreading the evangelical message through the mass media.
Thus Henry has always tried to cram twenty-five hours into a day. While teaching at Fuller Seminary, he headed up the Rose Bowl Easter Sunrise Service for seven years. AT CHRISTIANITY TODAY, while building it into the most influential journal of conservative Protestantism, he also managed to counsel other top evangelical leaders, spark the Institute for Advanced Christian Studies, moderate a TV series, deliver hundreds of lectures, and chair the precedent-setting 1966 World Congress on Evangelism.
His wife, Helga, the daughter of German Baptist missionaries to Africa, says that “every time we go on vacation, he takes a dozen books along and tries to write another.” Henry’s books now total two dozen, but most of them during his years at the magazine were journalistic writings or anthologies of various authors. Now, with help from his wife—an editor and educator in her own right—he will tackle some more major projects. To round out the picture of scholarship, the Henrys’ two children are both completing work on doctors’ degrees: Paul, in political science from Duke, and Carol, in musicology from Indiana University.
The Lambeth action was in an amendment by Canada’s Bishop George Luxton, who said assent to the Articles constituted “theological smog.”
LATIN CATHOLICISM: OLD AND NEW
Caught between the old and the new, Roman Catholic bishops in Latin America paradoxically endorsed the Pope’s ban on artificial birth control but upheld violent revolution in extreme instances. The statements were issued from the second general assembly of Latin bishops in Medellion, Colombia, which began with a visit by Pope Paul (see September 13 issue).
Led by progressives, the bishops also condemned military spending at the expense of health and education programs. They said that exploitation by foreign businesses threatened social justice in their countries. And they pointed toward internal church reform by recommending greater lay and clerical participation in diocese work.
The Colombian bishops, considered the most conservative in Latin America, issued separate declarations.
The conference was held behind closed doors and comparatively little has been made public of what was discussed and decided. Protestant disappointment over the conference has centered on its apparent failure—and that of the Pope—to concede how badly non-Catholics have been treated in Colombia in the past. Some bishops, however, sensed this need for a repentant spirit, and more.
One Mexican bishop is described as seeing the task of the church “to evangelize the baptized, bringing the personal reformation and conversion of the man.” Bishop Samual Puiz Garcia stated, “the content of the kerygma … is not substantially different for Catholics and our separated brethren. Only the teaching of catechism following the conversion establishes the differences. Would it be utopian to imagine the possibility of an ecumenical proclamation …?”
VULGARITY IN THE MOUNTAINS
General Conference Mennonites faced some strong words at their recent triennial meeting at a YMCA camp in the Colorado mountains. The Revelators, a youth group from a church in South-side Chicago, offered a pageant called “The Blackness of Blackness.” Its strong critique of white racism met little resistance, but officials forbade the script’s use of one phrase more commonly heard in military latrines than in church conferences. The offended youths felt their candor crimped, however, and eventually the show went on—phrase and all—with an explanatory note on the program.
Fear of centralized power lengthened the debate on a new constitution, in process for six years. The approved document puts the missions, social-service, and education agencies under a conference-elected board.
A resolution approved Project Equality, a national pact to buy from equal-opportunity employers. A statement on hunger urged Mennonites to make “radical adjustments” in their styles of life so more foreign aid will be available. Henry Poettcker, head of Canadian Mennonite Bible College in Winnipeg, was elected the conference’s first Canadian president.
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